Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

Cases in the Classroom: Part A

Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

Cases in the Classroom: Part A

Article excerpt

Based on our own experiences in the classroom, at Society for Case Research meetings, and our working with this journal, we put forth that some of us really began to learn what a case was by attending the Society for Case Research (SCR) conferences and workshops, writing and publishing cases in SCR journals, and assigning cases to be used in our classes.

Moreover, the process of writing and publishing cases has increased our understanding of their value in the classroom. Thus, for this issue, our "From the Editors" article focuses on cases in the classroom.

What Exactly is a Case Study?

A case study is a series of real events that tell a story about an issue or conflict to be resolved (Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, 1994). The story typically has characters, and there is sufficient character development to draw empathy from the audience. Furthermore, cases typically do not have an obvious solution; the reader often has to iterate through a breadth of complex information in order to develop possible solutions to the conflict.

The Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning (1994, p. 2) stated that in deciding whether or not to use a case in the classroom, a faculty member should first identify goals. Possible goals include:

* Helping students apply theory to complex, real world situations;

* Giving students teamwork experiences;

* Helping students draw connections across disciplines; and

* Giving students practice with analyzing data and drawing conclusions in a particular business context.

Another goal of a case study, as suggested by (Vega, 2013), is for it to engage students in a learning format that is different from the more traditional lecture style of teaching because the traditional delivery requires less engagement and interaction from students. Also, if students expect to be lecture to, they may be more likely not to have prepared for class ahead of time. As a consequence, they may not be as mentally engaged with the lecture as we instructors would prefer.

For example, consider the flipped classroom (Bergmann and Sams, 2012). In a flipped classroom, students watch short videos and read materials prior to coming to class. Then, instead of listening to a lecture, students spend class time working through exercises or projects and participating in class discussion. McCarty and Dixon's "The Case of the Co-op Coup" is one that may be suited for a flipped classroom as students may read the case in advance and then, spend class time discussing what factors encourage teams or challenges that may prevent teams from realizing their potential. Or, they may discuss their own life events and experiences on teams and identify what factors helped or thwarted team success.

Cases provide an excellent venue for active teaching and learning. Students read the case, watch short videos about the company and conduct an Internet research to prepare for class. In-class time is devoted to working on solutions to the case, answering case related questions, and participating in class discussions about the case. Consistent with the flipped classroom, students will often discover answers (as opposed to their waiting for the professor to give the answer). Thomas's case, "ASPCA," illustrated the appropriateness of this teaching format. Students read the case, watch the marketing efforts of ASPCA (e.g., via YouTube), and then discuss the appropriateness or inappropriateness of its revenue distribution.

How Exactly Do Instructors Use Cases in Class?

Vega (2013) provided a schema, based on 5 Ps, to assist faculty in teaching cases. The 5 Ps are: purpose, persona, preparation, practice, and problems.


Instructors should be able to explain the purpose, answer the "why" question--"Why is this case used for this class?" Consistent with the goals listed by the Stanford Learning and Teaching Center (1994), Vega (2013, p. …

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